Living Culture

Paucartambo Fiesta

For 362 days of the year Paucartambo, some 109 kilometers (less than three hours) by road from Cusco, is a small, quiet Andean town where nothing really happens. Then for three days each year, from July 15th, the town fills with thousands of pilgrims and visitors as it plays host to one of the region’s most colorful and fascinating fiestas.

The festivities were introduced by the Spanish in all their colonies to pay respect to the Virgin of Carmen and celebrations were held throughout the Americas, but in the Andes, where all fiestas reflect the struggle between Christian and local beliefs, the Virgin is not just the mother of Christ, she is also Pachamama, or Mother Earth.

The festivities begin on July 15th with the entrance of each of the sixteen dance groups, magnificently masked and costumed according to their respective customs and traditions. They all approach the church dancing.

Behind the dancers the entire population of the town gathers along the main street, carrying candles, flowers and other offerings. That evening in the main square, there is a riotous firework display during which some of the dance groups leap over the many bonfires lit around the plaza. Around midnight, all the dancers gather again at the church to solemnly serenade the Virgin.

 

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To Paucartambo

At 09:00 you will be picked up from your hotel for the drive to Paucartambo (2.5 hours).

The festivities begin on July 15th around 13:00 with the entrance of each of the sixteen dance groups, magnificently masked and costumed according to their respective customs and traditions. Today is the most colorful and vibrant day of the festival. Each of the dance groups approach the church dancing.

Behind the dancers the entire population of the town gathers along the main street, carrying candles, flowers and other offerings. That evening in the main square, there is a riotous firework display during which some of the dance groups leap over the many bonfires lit around the plaza. Around midnight, all the dancers gather again at the church to solemnly serenade the Virgin and end the day.

We will have an overnight  stay in the Paucartambo Campsite or at a homestay for small groups (up to 6 people)

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Day 2: Paucartambo

Very early on July 16th, the central day of the festivities, the townspeople return to the plaza  after attending mass where they receive gifts rained down upon them by four members of the Qolla comprasa (dancing group) from their wooden platforms above the crowd. That afternoon the Virgin is carried from the church through the streets and plazas of Paucartambo at the head of all the dance groups.

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Day 3: Return drive to Cusco in the late afternoon

On July 17th, in a ceremony reminiscent of the ancestral Andean cult of the dead, the dancers make their way to the cemetery. In their songs, as well as recalling their ancestors, they remind themselves of their own mortality. That afternoon the effigy of the Virgin is carried again through the narrow streets to the colonial bridge at the edge of town, where a moving song of farewell is performed. Taking advantage of the Virgin’s absence, the devil-masked Saqras invade the main plaza for a ritual battle between the Qolla and Chuncho dance groups.

Included:

Private bus
 English speaking guide.
 Food: Breakfast, lunch and dinner as described in the itinerary.
 Accommodation either at the Paucartambo Campsite or homestay for small groups (up to 6 people).

Not-included:

Personal expenses like souvenirs
Tips to guides.
Airport taxes approximately $6 USD for each domestic flight and $28 USD for the international flight.
Drinks.
Tips to the staff.

Travel Details

  • Duration: 3D / 2N
  • Location: Cusco – Peru
  • Customizable: Yes
  • When to go: July 15th to 18th
  • Travel Style: Living Culture.
  • Destinations: Cusco.
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